News you can Use on Digital Estate
By Margaret Norman,
Do you store business information on your computer? What about
family photos? Do you have an eBay® account? If your answer to
these questions is “yes” you will be surprised to hear that if you
become seriously ill or die, all that information may not be
available to your heirs.
There is an act called “Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets
Act” which would make that information available but it has to be
passed separately by each state.
Until then, you should do some estate planning that involves
digital assets. First the assets belong in two groups, and the
solution to the problems are different.
1) Online accounts
Gmail®, Yahoo®, AOL® and other email sites, Facebook®, Ebay®,
Yahoo®, Amazon®, and Twitter® all have terms of service
agreements that you accept. Those terms can prevent a successor of
yours from getting into the account. Information that you may have
wanted to keep may be deleted in the future, and not available to
your heirs at all.
Problem: How can you allow your heirs to have access to these
Solution: You can have an authorization document prepared stating
who will be the person to access these sites. That person
should be someone you trust as well as somebody who is good with
online data. At the moment, each site has its own rules, and
it won’t be easy to access this information. Separate from your
authorization document, you should list all the sites that you
are on as well as your password and screen name. Put on flash drive.
Place in home safe. Try not to use bank safety deposit box.
2) Files on your computer, I pad and I phone
Many people keep business records, tax records, online banking
records, phone numbers and Christmas card lists, you may have
websites of your own.
Problem: How do you enable your family to access this information if
you were seriously ill or deceased? How can this be done with
Solution: A small flash drive is a little exterior drive that can
store all that information. It must be a high quality device
known as a Single Layer Cell (SLC). Put your passwords
on it, screen names, the latest stock statement, your banking
information, and whatever else you want to keep. Put it into an
envelope and place in a safe to which only you and a trusted person
have the combination. You may want to print the
information on paper and include it with the lists that you have
electronically. Heat, moisture and time are all things that
can change or damage a thumb drive. Paper has some of the same
problems, but a little bit of redundancy is ok for keeping track of
these important items. If you have a computer that can
make a CD or DVD you can use that to keep those important files,
just remember everything has good and bad points.
A common myth is that even without your passwords, it is possible to
get access to your computer documents. Leonard Bernstein died in
1990 and left a password protected memoir, that has never been
recovered. You can check your password strength by
entering something similar on some of the sites that score your
password, but NEVER enter your actual password on the sites that
“Check Your Password”.
Some of those sites are: